Wednesday, November 12, 2008

WAR: An incentive problem

Bloggers like to talk about the "incentive" or "reward" in an MMO because they have significant influence on player behavior.

At launch and during Open Beta, I commented several times that one of the things I really appreciated about Mythic's approach to incentives is that everything you do gives a reward. The theory being that if everything you do can provide a reward, then people will be more inclined to choose the "fun" thing over the "rewarding" thing.

The easiest path
Of course, MMO players also generally prefer the path of least resistance. So while the Mythic approach seems to help players avoid the "unfun" things, all things are not so perfectly balanced that the amount of effort required to achieve each reward is exactly equal.

We see the net result of these inequalities by player preferences. The most obvious one was that players were choosing Scenarios as the primary method of leveling. My take on this issue a month or so ago was that this was because Scenarios were the only activity that earned you both XP and Renown.

Mythic's answer to this problem was to increase the reward of World RvR objectives and World RvR player kills. This is a step in the right direction, but it also seems incomplete.

Renown Rank is more difficult
Syncaine noted today that his RR is nine levels lower than his Career Rank. As I pointed out in his comments, the problem is that he will likely outlevel the gear he wants that requires a higher Renown Rank by the time he achieves the required Renown level.

The issue for Syncaine is that he spent most of his time leveling in other ways, primarily PQs and quests. It seems asinine that he is effectively being PUNISHED for not leveling through Scenarios.

The Renown Rank cap
This is rarely talked about, but until you hit Rank 40, Renown Rank is actually capped and can't exceed your current Rank. In other words, if your Rank is 10 then you can't ding Renown Rank 11 until after you achieve Career Rank 11.

We don't ever talk about this cap because it's largely irrelevant after Tier 1. After all, if Renown Rank is more difficult to earn than Career Rank, how many people ever end up in a situation where this cap impacts them negatively.

And yet -- it does exist. We just don't care because we are never in a position where Renown is "wasted" because our Career Rank was too low.

This got me thinking: What would YOU do if your renown was capped?

If you were 99% into RR 21 and you were only 25% into Career Rank 21, what would you do knowing that earning additional rewnown is simply wasted?

Would you still play Scenarios?

I know I wouldn't play Scenarios. I would go quest or do PQs for gear until I dinged another level. A lot of the "incentive" for participating in the Scenario would simply disappear for me.

Lowering amount of Renown to level RR
I can absolutely understand why RR should go slow in T4. The pacing for RR should be slow, particularly after rank 40.

But when I think about Syncaine's situation and how my own behavior would change if I were RR capped, then I can't help but think that the best solution would be to lower the amount of Renown points required to level Renown Ranks 1 to 35.

If we reduce the amount of points, this means that players would need to participate in less Scenarios in order to rank Renown. This puts more players out in the world for PQs, dungeons and quests.

It also gives someone like Syncaine the opportunity to "catch up" his Renown Rank in a reasonable and timely manner.

World RvR
The counter argument is that this could dis-incentivize Keep Sieges and Battlefield Objectives.

I would disagree.

I actually think that people would be MORE inclined to take Keeps and BOs at the lower tiers if they knew that they could level Renown Rank that way fairly quickly.

In other words, right now it's pretty impractical to spend a night taking BOs and level up RR much. But if it were possible to gain a RR or two in a few hours of taking BOs -- then that becomes much more attractive.

Or at the very least, it's not less attractive than what currently exists.

1 comment:

syncaine said...

That's an interesting take on the RR issue. It does nag me that because I play with a stead group of 5 people, and we like doing the PQs and ORvR, our renown is falling behind. (what's really crazy is that I've probably done more Objective captures and successful Keep captures than most, we just don't like grinding scenarios)

I think you are right that people would leave scenarios if you increased RR gain until 35 or so. I know in T1 when I hit the RR cap, I stopped running scenarios, in part because I was 'wasting' the renown gain. I think a lot of people would also find that the case. I would still do Keep sieges because the gold bags offer such nice rewards, and they are generally more fun than the typical scenario.

Good post.